Even as other states get in the pool, Colorado's marijuana industry continues to make a splash, with over 500 retail dispensary licenses in the state. About a third of those are for addresses in Denver, which remains at the top of the cannabis food chain.
All of that chum in the water has raised some fat sharks, with a handful of early adapters growing to chains with outlets in the double digits.These companies aren't just the largest legal marijuana retailers in Colorado; they're also some of the largest legal marijuana retailers in the world. Here are the big six, in order of their store count:
Native Roots has grown quickly since opening on the 16th Street Mall in 2009, spreading to stores in Summit County, dispensaries in Boulder, Longmont and Trinidad, and three Gas and Grass shops (medical marijuana dispensary/gas station hybrids) in Colorado Springs. In the Denver area alone, the company has ten Native Roots locations (the Dandelion, a dispensary in Boulder, is owned by Native Roots), all known for inexpensive flower and skate-shop vibes. Native Roots opened its twentieth store late last year, buying out a former Live Green dispensary in west Denver, and has a license for a shop in Glenwood Springs that could become number 21.
Half of LivWell's fourteen dispensaries are in the Denver area, but the company also serves the rural crowd, with locations in Cortez, Garden City, Mancos and Trinidad. Founded in 2009, LivWell has run one of the largest seed-to-sale businesses since recreational sales began in 2014 in Colorado. Owner John Lord is usually steps ahead of his competitors when it comes to scaling his business, partnering with Snoop Dogg for branded lines of flower, edibles and concentrates to make LivWell the first dispensary with celebrity-endorsed cannabis products. The company also has a store in Oregon, and recently acquired an ownership stake in an Alberta cannabis producer as Canada prepares for the implementation of recreational legalization in 2018.
The Green Solution
The Green Solution's retail experience is one of the most user-friendly in Colorado, with a vast but organized inventory of mostly in-house products, all of which customers can pre-order online. Eleven of the Green Solution's dispensaries are in the Denver area, with more stores in Fort Collins (which opened in October 2017), Silver Plume and Trinidad. The brand opened another Denver location last November, with plans to open stores fifteen and sixteen in Sheridan and Aurora, respectively, before the summer ends. The Green Solution also has locations in Illinois and a medical marijuana delivery service in Florida.
Green Dragon has been growing since it consolidated with its sister brand, Greenwerkz. It opened a new store in Telluride despite the town's current dispensary scene not being too thrilled with its presence, and it's slated to open a Thornton location before summer. Although Green Dragon has had multiple locations in Summit County and Glenwood Springs since 2014, its rise in the Mile High is relatively new. After opening two Aurora shops and taking over several Denver dispensaries in the past two years, Green Dragon now has six locations in the metro area, and the Thornton store will make seven.
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Starbuds has never taken its brand too seriously, naming itself and fashioning its logo as a parody of Starbucks; one of the coffee shops sits just across the street from the original Starbuds on East Evans Avenue. The dispensary brand has been one of the larger chains in the state since 2015, with locations spanning Denver and southern Colorado — but after opening its ninth and tenth stores in Commerce City and Niwot, it can count itself among the top five. And when its eleventh store opens in Aurora this year, it'll move even higher on the charts.
The last two chains to grace the bottom of this list, Sweet Leaf and Strainwise, have either vastly scaled back operations or completely left the dispensary business, for very different reasons. Lightshade, however, seems to be thriving, opening a handful of new locations in metro Denver over the last two years. There could be a ninth pot shop under the brand in the near future, too, if Lightshade is one of four dispensaries accepted into Longmont by its city council this summer.